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Saturday, September 26, 2020

Combating baby dumping and child abuse: causes and solutions

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This is a baby that she has carried inside her body for nine months; a baby that she should have bonded with while it was in her womb. What is it then that drives a mother to throw her baby away? Baby dumping is a crime, but it is also a cry for help. By definition, baby dumping refers to mothers abandoning or discarding a child younger than 12 months in a public or private place with the intent of disposing it.

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Recently, the President announced stringent measures of deterrence against baby dumping in the country which has regrettably taken an upward tilt, including the death sentence to rapturous applause from the audience .However, it takes less the signing of a death warrant than addressing the root causes to curb such social ills .The causes of baby dumping include many social and cultural factors as well as mental illness. However, poverty is often a root cause of child abandonment. Another common reason for baby dumping is teenage pregnancy .Teenagers experience problems during and after childbirth due to social and psychological distress. In many cases, abandonment is an alternative to abortion.

 

To address this issue, the government must go beyond mere expressions of political will and move to action by creating conditions and opportunities for young people to rise beyond the circumstances of their birth and escape the morass of poverty through provision of affordable and quality education.

 

With the stinging dearth of  gainful employment prospects for the majority of young people graduating from high school and university, many are faced with harder socio-economic challenges than they have ever been prepared to deal with .We are quite aware of the fact that the government alone cannot provide jobs in sufficient proportions to the majority of these people which raises the question of the role of the private sector .The private sector, in most developed countries, is the engine of growth leading to innovation and employment creation for the majority of citizens  but that does not seem to be the case in The Gambia. With globalisation and failed economic policies, most African economies have failed to generate economic growth at a pace that matches the changes in demographic trends. With such economic realities, the extended African family system which used to serve as a safety net and source of support for members is functioning under extreme stress.

 

While we condemn baby dumping and child abuse in the strongest possible terms, we trust the solution lies not only in punishing the perpetrators   but creating a society of greater acceptance and tolerance .We need a society with vast spaces where young women can come together and share experiences.

 

Empowering women to assert themselves is the best way to drastically reduce or stop this sad state of affairs. The empowered woman is a powerful agent of societal change .The government deserves commendation for this through the creation of President’s Empowerment for Girl Education Project (Pegep) which has seen a massive rise in the number of girls enrolled across all levels of education in this country. The gains made by this initiative, as well as announcement of free primary school education need to be supported and consolidated.

 

We hope that the on-going 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence will inspire activists, educators, political leaders and scholars to come up with solutions that will further empower young ladies and the girl child, while contributing to the eradication of rape and dumping of children in this country.

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